Toronto Is Throwing A Free 5,000-Person Thanksgiving Meal Made From Food Waste

Talk about gratitude.

Around Thanksgiving, there's always a lot of discussion of how grateful people should be for what they have, and appreciating every part of their lives.

One group is taking that mindset to the next level, and offering up a free Thanksgiving feast in Toronto made by chefs — all from food that would have otherwise been thrown out.

As part of the city's new EDIT (Expo for Design, Innovation & Technology) festival, the global group Feedback has decided to bring their "Feeding the 5000" concept to Canada for the first time.

Launched in London's Trafalgar Square in 2009, and spread worldwide from there, the non-profit dedicated to eliminating food waste gets local chefs and communities involved in their large-scale endeavours. They aim to feed (you guessed it) 5,000 people, a reference to the Biblical miracle of Jesus feeding 5,000 people with five barley loaves and two fish.

In Toronto, they've enlisted chefs Joshna Maharaj, Bob Blumer, Cory Vitiello, Tyler Newsom and Nick Liu to get involved, with Second Harvest providing the 2,000 pounds of food that would otherwise be discarded, "mostly for aesthetic reasons," writes organizer Tammara Soma in a HuffPost blog.

Second Harvest has been doing this kind of work for decades, but it's often behind the scenes. They retrieve food from distribution centres and deliver it to shelters and at-risk communities.

Second Harvest founders Ina Andre and Joan Clayton rescuing food in the 1980s.
Second Harvest founders Ina Andre and Joan Clayton rescuing food in the 1980s.

"All of the food is perfectly edible. A lot of it has been mislabeled," Second Harvest communications director Cori MacPhee told HuffPost Canada last year. "Some is close to its due date and therefore it isn't really economical for them to send it out to a store and have it going on to the shelf but we're able to take it and turn it around within 48 hours."

A similar event, Trashed and Wasted, was held in Toronto earlier this year, with upscale chefs and restaurants raising money for Second Harvest by selling food made with ingredients that would have gone in the garbage.

The menu for the EDIT event, according to the Facebook invite, is almost fully vegetarian, including fall minestrone (the stock will be made with leftover lamb bones), green herb pistou and potato focaccia bread, and vegan options will be available too.

For those who already have Thanksgiving plans, but want to get in on the action, they're also hosting a chopping event on Friday night at George Brown College.

But what organizers want, more than anything, is to remind people that so much of the food that's considered garbage can in fact be put to use, something that's important to keep in mind as huge feasts are being prepared at homes across Canada this weekend.

Approximately half of the edible food waste are fruits and vegetables.

"Toronto households on average throw away about 223 kg of food per year at home, of which about 62 per cent could have been eaten," Soma notes. "Approximately half of the edible food waste are fruits and vegetables. That's a huge waste of energy, water, land and labour! This massive food waste is even more shocking considering that approximately one in eight households in the city experience food insecurity."

So this Thanksgiving weekend, as you appreciate the land of plenty in which we live, try to take a moment to think about how you're using the food you have on hand — and if it means inviting an extra guest or two or making sure you piece something together with leftovers, all the better.